Occupy Wall Street: On what’s happening and what it means for you.

Today is the 11th consecutive day of the Wall Street occupation and protests. For background and base information, see the official Occupy Wall St site. See the official Occupy Wall St Tumblr for updated news.

If you need a refresher of the events of 2008, click here for a thorough review. Almost exactly three years ago, Bank of America bought out Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, and the Fed invested $85b in a takeover of AIG. Three years later, the American 99% has suffered far more than these institutions have, and protesters have decided they aren’t going to take it anymore.

What is Occupy Wall Street?

Occupy Wall Street is an ongoing peaceful demonstration opposing what participants view as negative corporate influence over U.S. politics and a lack of legal repercussions over the global financial crisis.[2] It was inspired by the Arab Spring movement, particularly the protests in Cairo‘s Tahrir Square which resulted in the2011 Egyptian Revolution.[3] The aim of the demonstration is to begin a sustained occupation of Wall Street, the financial district of New York City. Organizers intend for the occupation to last “as long as it takes to meet our Demands.” Demands are in the process of being negotiated on and developed.

One of the most succinct descriptions of the emotion behind the protest is this, via the Guardian:

We are watching the beginnings of the defiant self-assertion of a new generation of Americans, a generation who are looking forward to finishing their education with no jobs, no future, but still saddled with enormous and unforgivable debt. Most, I found, were of working-class or otherwise modest backgrounds, kids who did exactly what they were told they should: studied, got into college, and are now not just being punished for it, but humiliated – faced with a life of being treated as deadbeats, moral reprobates.

One of the main arguments against Occupy Wall Street is its lack of organization. This has caused its profile to drop, especially in media coverage. At most, right now it is just an occupation and protest consisting of several hundred people. But this is the beginning. It’s spreading. This shows that people care enough about this to do something about it, and I think this movement is going somewhere. We need serious reform in many ways, but unless conscious change is directed, it’s not going to happen.

Media Coverage

This is an essential part of this story. There has been almost no news coverage of the occupation and police attacks, which is both shocking and wrong. Most coverage has been on personal blogs and smaller publications. The major coverage that should be airing on major news outlets is not. And the news coverage that exists is blatantly glossing over the brutality.

Yes, there has been some coverage. I won’t deny that. But for a cause that should be gaining momentum across America, it’s not enough. I’ve listed some major news outlets below, but you’ll find links to others scattered throughout this post.

Today is the first day CNN has provided actual coverage of the event, but I had to search their homepage to find even this. Meanwhile, the current front-page article of CNN.com is “Broken Government? Blame Voters: Stupid voters enable broken government.”

I can’t find an article on Fox News since Saturday. No news on the homepage or in subsections – just a search yields a video uploaded yesterday pondering whether NYPD went “too far.” No news since the 24th. I guess I’m not shocked by this.

NPR has stated their reason for lack of coverage as “We asked the newsroom to explain their editorial decision. Executive editor for news Dick Meyer came back: “The recent protests on Wall Street did not involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption or an especially clear objective.”

But isn’t that the point? This is a protest against prominent people, a protest against what has been taken from the working class. The lack of large media coverage is keeping this movement from growing. If major media outlets refuse to give actual coverage to these events happening all over the nation, they are actively denying that this is an important cause.

While official statements say that essential parts of videos leading up to altercations have been left out, multiple witness and victim reports directly contradict this.

What world do we live in where we aren’t allowed to film our surroundings? This is something I hear and see over and over again in the news – people stopped from filming police activity. This is not illegal. This should not be happening.

Police Brutality

According to CNN’s latest report,

About 100 people have been arrested during the protests, police said. People were apprehended for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstructing governmental administration and assaulting a police officer, said New York City Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne. Most of the arrests came Saturday. There were no arrests Sunday and Monday, protest organizers said.

Yes, some of these officers are just doing their jobs. But is it necessary to commit violence on this scale just to detain and arrest those actually breaking the law? No. It is not.

“The reason that man is being assaulted by the police is because of what he has in his hand,” MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell said, while showing a video clip of a man with a video camera being tackled by police. “He’s holding a professional grade video camera. Since the Rodney King beating was caught on an amateur video camera, American police officers have known video cameras are their worst enemy. They will do anything they can to stop you from legally videotaping how they handle their responsibility to serve and protect you.”

From the GothamistTimes’ Up! photographer Barbara Ross tells us that as she was filming Saturday’s march down Broadway to Union Square, a white-shirted NYPD officer repeatedly warned her that she would be arrested unless she started marching with the demonstrators. “I was standing off to the side so I could document what was going on—you couldn’t really see much from within the group,” Ross says, “And he kept saying, ‘You either join them or I’ll arrest you.’ I wasn’t blocking traffic or harming anything, it was obvious it was because I was holding a camera.”

Furthermore, one of the more highly publicized acts of brutality is the macing of a group of young women by Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna. According to an article in The Atlantic Wire, Bologna was accused of misconduct in 2004 at the RNC.

A major complaint is that the police brutality is overtaking the message of the protest. I would agree that this is a valid point. However, this is happening for a reason. Regardless of the protest, this should not be happening. This kind of violence is not okay. The nation needs to see this and needs to know about it. New York is no more dangerous than any other city, frequently less so because of measures taken in the past 10-20 years to make it that way, and this should not be happening.

If the violence weren’t occurring, this protest would be the focus. Perhaps the violence is keeping some at home, afraid to be beaten and/or maced by those sworn to protect them.

What You Can Do

Across the country, those who are unable to be in NYC are setting up protests of their own. They meet where they feel they can make a difference, many protesting banks and other institutions deemed responsible for the economic downturn. Visit OccupyTogether.org for opportunities locally and across the country. It appears an Occupy OKC protest is in the works. Stay tuned to their Facebook page and Twitter feed for the most updated information.

This is scary. This is happening. This is real. If you aren’t paying attention to this, you’re missing history.

Eyewitness/Victim Accounts:

Essential Links:

I recognize that my coverage may not be complete, due to time constraints, and I would love to hear opinions and further research and links in the comments.
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